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Wednesday, 07 September 2016

Prime Minister confirms women's refuges to be exempt from benefits cap

Written by The Press Association

Safe houses for women and children escaping domestic violence are to be exempted from the Government's planned welfare cuts, Theresa May has said.

The Prime Minister came under pressure from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to protect funding for women's refuges in the UK, amid fears that two-thirds would close when the changes come into force.

Mr Corbyn warned that such a move would be "devastating" for the "very vulnerable" women in the refuges and place them in danger.

Mrs May confirmed the Government is working to exempt refuges from the cap.

The exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions come as listeners to BBC Radio 4's The Archers have heard Helen Titchener go on trial for the attempted murder of her controlling and abusive husband Rob.

Women's Aid also warned that a planned blanket cap on housing benefit will "decimate" refuges for women fleeing domestic abuse and leave "real-life Helens" without support.

The Government plans to cap housing benefit for refuges at Local Housing Allowance rates, cutting the amount of money centres receive by as much as £240 a week per room.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn told the PM: "Women's Aid has said that two-thirds of women's refuges are going to close because of the benefit cap when it comes into force, and that 87% of women and children in those refuges will suffer as a result of it and that most of those refuges require an income level that comes mainly from housing benefit - 90% of their income comes from it.

"Do you recognise these are very vulnerable women in those refuges? Closure of those refuges would be devastating for them, very dangerous for the most vulnerable people within our society.

"Would you take action to make sure that the cap does not apply to Women's Aid refugees in any part of Britain?"

Mrs May replied: "You raise a very important issue. On the issue of domestic violence we should across this House be doing all we can to stop these terrible crimes taking place and provide support to the victims and survivors of this crime.

"That's why we are working on exempting refuges from the cap in relation to what you speak about."

Mrs May insisted the Government led by the Tories has a "very good record" on dealing with domestic violence.

Two women die every week in England and Wales at the hands of a current or former partner.

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